Annual ‘Spring Aboard’ campaign reminds boaters to get educated

Trauma Trust wants boaters to be prepared for the upcoming season by taking a safety education course.

During the National Spring Aboard campaign, March 17 through 23, the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) along with state, federal and nonprofit partners are coordinating efforts that aim to get boaters’ educated in boating safety before boating season begins.

Why be certified in boating safety? For many boaters, it’s the law. In Washington state, boaters who operate a vessel with a 15 horsepower engine — or greater — must be certified and carry a Boater Education Card to prove they passed an accredited boating safety education course.

It is important for all out on the water to know the laws and keep yourself and others safe. Boating trends and statistics tell us that educated boaters are less likely to get in an accident.  We all want our waterways to be safe and fun for all recreational boaters.

We strongly encourage all boaters to take a safety education course, even if you aren’t legally required.

How do boaters’ get certified? Generally, boaters have three options: an instructor-led course; an online self-study; or (for boaters who already have a lot of boating experience) a home study and equivalency exam. Each course gives a strong foundational knowledge of boating safety, emergency procedures and navigational rules. During the Spring Aboard week, many course providers offer discounts or other incentives for students who enroll in a course.

How do boaters obtain a Boater Education Card? After completing and passing a state-approved boating safety course or equivalency exam, students must apply for a Boater Education Card with their proof of certification. Many online course providers will complete this step and charge a third-party fee. If boaters apply directly with the Boating Program, the one-time fee for the card is $10. More information about courses and the boater education card can be found at

Some important things to know:

  • U.S. Coast Guard statistics indicate that of the accidents where the level of operator education was known, 80 percent of boating deaths occurred on boats where the boat operator had never received boating education instruction. (
  • Boat operators born before Jan. 1, 1955, are exempt from the Washington requirement but may choose to get a card if they plan to go boating in Canada or Oregon, which require proof of having completed a boating education course. The Washington State Boater Education Card is valid in those two areas.
  • As of Jan. 31, 2019, more than 342,000 Washingtonians have a Boater Education Card.
  • Forty-nine states and U.S. territories require proof of completion of a boating education course for operators of some powered vessels.
  • When required by law, the fine for not carrying a valid Boater Education Card in Washington state is $99.



back to top